In The Club of Seven, February 5, 2016
Translated from French by Tom Winter, February 6, 2016
Over the top! What other expression could be used for the absurdity of the polemic of a group of French journalists against the Paul Moreira documentary, Masks of the Revolution.
In an open letter to the latter, they shot a salvo of criticisms to which the director has, once again, patiently objected. The signers are “permanent correspondents in Kiev and the region, others are very regular correspondents.” They are not going to specify which side of the front line they regularly go to (if not exclusively), and I do not think that some of them are “very regularly” on the spot, but never mind . Let’s go on to the funniest.
In this scathing letter of journalists who claim authority about Ukraine, there is the insult of “intellectual laziness.” Paul Moreira would be committing “a dramatic shortcut” when describing as “Russians” or “Ukrainians of Russian origin,” the inhabitants of a country where, in 2016, “identity is certainly not defined as the only ethno-linguistic factor.”
Over the top! One of the signatories of this letter wrote an article in the November 14, 2014 number of Elle Magazine supporting the “Ukrainian women” fighting the “Russian separatists.” This is not simple, right? (As if there were not the reverse, by the way, despite the absurdity of this categorization.)
Even better: this reporter didn’t notice (he defends himself) that he gives voice to a young neo-Nazi woman who merited a beautiful full-page picture by a similarly ignorant photographer. (Photographer who also received the Gold Visa Magazine prize in 2014, Languedoc-Roussillon region, for his work in Ukraine, from Maidan to Donbass.)
Shortly after the article was published, the young neo-Nazi woman was identified as such by militants on a social network in December 2014. Faced with the scandal, the editorial board of Elle then had to crack a press release on 29 December to apologize for having published the portrait of the neo-Nazi.
The statement said the journalists had met “the fighter of the battalion Aidar October 2, on the front line near the city of Lugansk, and nothing, no external distinctive sign, no word in the interview, gave to understand on that day that this young woman was neo-Nazi.”
Ah? Nothing? The Aidar battalion to which she belonged had already been the subject of a report by Amnesty International. September 8, 2014, the NGO recognized that the Aidar Battalion was guilty of war crimes in the Lugansk region. And long long before that, it was suspected of abuses, with numerous examples getting circulated on the internet. This should have prompted the “well-connected” journalists to question the Aidar battalion. If I could see these indicators, why couldn’t they?
Note that the dossier of another female fighter named and pictured in this article, notorious in the neo-Nazi movement Praviy Sektor, is not much brighter.
See nothing, hear nothing, “regular correspondents in Ukraine! Was it “intellectual laziness”?
In light of this single example, it is doubtful that the journalists making moral to Paul Moreira are serious in saying: “We’ve long since been describing and analyzing the extreme right in Ukraine” …
How to explain then that the neo-Nazi was identified, not by the journalists on the ground in direct contact with her, but by activists on social networks?! Same for Odessa: without the reaction of social networks and information from unofficial sources, the tragedy would not have had any more exposure than the vague information given by the big European media through a press agency and the official communications from the Government of Ukraine, regular journalists apparently not being there … One single article of the established press noted that failure.
And we’re not even talking about the operations called “anti-terrorist” triggered in April 2014 against the regions that claimed autonomy … There only the internet has any cred! Abuses committed by groups of extremists who came by the busloads to frontline villages, supported by heavy artillery, aviation, and tanks in the biggest cities, while there was virtually no organized defense, did not concern the “correspondents on the spot” at the appropriate time.
Journalists who stand against the documentary of Paul Moreira could at least have the humility to recognize that their work was not always up to the job, far from it. And the humility to admit that the film addresses informations gaps which they are also partly responsible for.
Of course this is not without risk. Not only Moscow, but other governments hostile to the European Union can find their case owing to the total media confusion stemming from the conflict in Ukraine. The fact that this confusion touches us so is proof that the fate of Ukraine concerns us deeply.